Thinking about thoughts and prayers

By Chelsea Fiddyment

All people have been talking about since last Thursday is the senseless shootings at NIU. It has been almost a week, and I feel as though writing a column about it might prove redundant. Much, if not all, has already been said about the subject. But it felt deeply wrong and disrespectful of me to write about anything else. At the same time, this is the most difficult thing I have ever attempted to write, as my thoughts regarding the topic are more than a little disjointed.

To begin, the effort made by Chancellor Herman and the rest of the University administration to reach out to the Northern Illinois community is respectful and admirable. The initiative taken by the UI is both an appreciated and necessary part of the healing process in the aftermath of such an event, especially considering Stephen Kazmierczak’s enrollment here. The feelings of many students, whether they come from DeKalb, have friends or family there, or who just know someone who has been affected by the shootings, are equally significant and indispensable.

Something worth noticing, however, are the amount of people who extend their “thoughts and prayers” to those affected. In the face of such needless tragedy, it seems that people removed from the situation feel obligated to relay religious condolences in order to successfully express their sympathy. Many religious-affiliated individuals have and will genuinely transmit their feelings and concerns in prayer, talk with a religious mentor, or maybe even question their faith because of what has occurred.

But when does faith become something more hurtful than healing? While it is most definitely not my place or intent to point an angry finger at people who genuinely seek solace through religion, I cannot help but feel disappointed by the number of people who extend their “prayers” because of social stigma instead of sincerity. People who don’t identify with a religion should not feel pressured to relate theologically to those who frame their feelings around their faith.

Likewise, people who make a decidedly public effort of relating their “prayers” and don’t sincerely feel them shouldn’t tarnish the authenticity of those who do. I would much rather hear fewer total comments on the subject but feel that the people articulating them genuinely care than see three-fourths of Facebook users talk about their “prayers” in their status messages. No, I’m not saying that I think everyone who uses Facebook to unite with the NIU community is insincere – it just seems that people who care don’t necessarily feel the need to advertise their emotions on the Web. Rather, this is what heartfelt vigils, phone calls, and e-mails are for: providing constructively communicative outlets for the array of feelings we have.

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    Religion completely aside, everyone deals differently with tragedy. People who remain, fortunately, unaffected by this particular situation should not feel ashamed if they cannot recall the precise moment when they first heard the news, or if they opted not to attend Monday’s vigil on the Quad. I have respect for that as well. It would be tactless and disgraceful to the sentiments of others to dispense empty condolences in an effort to force oneself to be emotionally invested to avoid the judgment of others. Regardless of what feelings we have, a time for mourning is crucial for many, and the best any of us can do is to respect that.

    Lastly, we cannot spend our time contemplating what would happen if the same thing happened to us. Anyone who hasn’t experienced this type of situation cannot fathom their feelings or physical reactions, nor should they expect to be able to. Many of us certainly cannot pretend to fully understand the chaotic feelings of those who lost a family member or friend to this brutal, unnecessary violence. We cannot psychologically prepare ourselves in advance for these heartbreaking tragedies. Otherwise, we would spend every day walking into lecture halls and classrooms afraid for our lives.

    Life, thankfully for us, goes on, and to plague ourselves ceaselessly with the caution “It could happen here” is to waste that beautiful realm stretched out in front of us. We owe it to those who have been so unfairly torn from us to live, not in fear of possibilities, but in appreciation of potential – to do, feel, experience, and be.

    Chelsea is a junior in English and music. So it goes.